River Gear Mule and Guide School


In 1999 I moved to Costa Rica to learn to guide rivers. West Virginia was a consideration, but what Appalachia and its dueling banjos did to this child of Cuban immigrants was the equivalent of “Jaws” to landlocked city slickers. Having seen “Deliverance” once was enough for me. Even though the jungles of Costa Rica are known to have some of the most aggressive and venomous snakes in the world I chose to focus on blue morpho butterflies, oropendolas, and toucans.

Some would argue that a story involving Latin America is not truly a good one without some kind of smuggling and as a 22-year-old heading for the first time into the wild Americas to live, I found immediate favor as a mule. My intention is not to raise eyebrows. We are well beyond statutes of limitations here and I was not ingesting baggies or bringing in any contraband. The manager for the company I was training for had a little business on the side. Those of you who have traveled in Latin America know that most everyone has a little something on the side. My new boss was no exception as he sold much needed and coveted river gear from the USA to guides. If family, friends, or a river trainee to be like me, could make it through customs and the goods be undeclared and not taxed, then so be it. With me coming to Costa Rica from Miami he knew I could bring the motherlode of PFD’s, NRS straps, Chacos, throw bags, webbing, helmets, kayak paddles, Patagonia board shorts, splash tops, carabineers, dry bags etc., with me on my journey. I stuffed as much gear as I could into a Dagger “Medieval” kayak and put the rest into 5 giant bill’s dry bags from NRS. I packed a North Face backpack for myself with my copies of Siddhartha, On The Road, and the Tao Te Ching… I boarded the plane on Martin Air in MIA and looked forward to the sweet jungle rivers to save me from the comfort, allure, and practicality of a life settled and sedentary.

As a child of immigrants that lost everything and had to start from scratch, river guiding was not the calling they envisioned me to pursue. Doctor, lawyer, business magnate or tenured professor at an esteemed educational institution was more what they had in mind. My father called the profession glorified taxi driving. Shortly after I arrived, The Tico Times, the American newspaper in Costa Rica, had an article published with the title “River Guides…More Than Carnival Workers?” With the reputation of being transient vagabonds, Jedi mystics, river rats, and all around debaucherous degenerates… I couldn’t wait to enter their world and see if I was cut from the same cloth.

On May 27, 2018, we are putting together a Guide School/River Intensive that is really a one of a kind experience. The 10-day intensive is for anybody that is looking to learn more about river outfitting and is looking for employment in either of our river operations, both of our operations, or just desires to be an extremely solid and well-trained private boater that could be an asset to any trip. Our training takes place over 10 days in Colorado and Utah on 3 rivers, the Colorado River, the Green River, and the Yampa River. Our training is multidisciplinary and geared towards turning our participants into river men and river women. That means that no one is a one trick pony. Our guides will be exposed and be given the foundational skills to row gear, paddle guide, and SUP guide. We will exceed the minimum hours and miles required by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and our guides will be able to be licensed to guide in both Colorado and Utah. What takes this opportunity to another stratosphere is running a 4-day high-water Yampa River multi Day. It is a very hard permit to get privately and as the last free-flowing river in the west that is a major tributary of the Colorado River System, a definite notch on any boating resume. Apart from the required rigging, maneuvering, swift water rescue topics that will be covered, the participant will experience first hand all that goes on in the preparation and fulfillment of a top tier multi-day experience. If you are planning on working commercially, leading river trips, or joining friends on their permits…everything you learn from us can make you an invaluable guest on the trip.

Edward Abbey in his homage to rivers and river people “Down the River,” describes guides as follows…

“Good men these boatmen. Generous, vigorous, competent types. The exasperating kind of people who can do and do well most anything: hunt and fish naturally. Build a boat, a house, or a hogan. Repair and outboard motor in rapids or fix a truck engine in a sandstorm. Pitch tents, build fires, cook meals in driving rain. Great Lovers? Of course. Truthful? Undoubtedly drink you under the table any day. Sporting men? You name the game, poker, pool, craps, Frisbee, backgammon, macrame, Monopoly-they’ll play it…”

We are looking at growing our tribe and bringing in the right personalities that fit in well with the team we already have. A sense of humor, inherent love of the outdoors, working well within a group, and calm under pressure are requirements. We are a small company but our dreams are huge. If the river already runs through your blood or if there is something about it that calls you. If you are daring enough to be vulnerable and courageous. If you are open to letting the forces that have shaped these majestic canyons over millions of years nurture and transform you. If there is a heroic call for adventure you have been following, keeping at bay or suppressing until this moment in time, I welcome you as kin. I ask you to consider joining us this May and early June. Like when I left the comfort of everything I knew almost 20 years ago to train in the rivers of the jungle, I know without a doubt, it was the best decision I made in my life. One day you may look back and say the same.

Javier Placer

CEO/River Manager

Adrift Adventures
Stand Up Paddle Colorado

Interested in our 10-day intensive? Click HERE.